(This makes two plates of shockingly dark fudge with the smooth, dense texture of Oklahoma river bottom soil)
3 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups milk
1-1/2 cups powdered cocoa
1 stick unsalted butter (plus some salted for buttering the plates and cooking pot)
1 tsp.+ vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
Butter the sides of a large heavy saucepan (I use the pot from my pressure cooker). Sift into it the sugar, cocoa and salt. Add the milk and stir over low heat until thoroughly blended. While the pot is heating up it is OK to scrape the sides, but once the fudge is boiling, avoid scraping what collects and crystallizes on the sides -- this can cause crystals to exist in the finished product, a no-no.
Once the pot reaches a low boil, you can stop stirring and get ready for the next steps. Butter two flat plates (or butter two large squares of plastic wrap) where the fudge will be poured when it's finished. Place them close to wherever you plan to sit when you beat the fudge. Get out a wooden spoon (I use a wooden stir-fry paddle) and place it in the same vicinity. And have enough kitchen towels handy that a hot pot of fudge won't burn your lap. Also set out the vanilla and stick of butter, and fill your sink with enough cold water that the pot can be cooled there when the moment comes.
Now, read a chapter from a book, do some yoga, make a phone call, or just sit and wait while the fudge burbles. Keep the fire low! This recipe is so dark that the fudge tends to burn to the bottom if you try to hurry it along with higher heat (a good reason to be sure you use a heavy pot, also.) I find that contemplating the endorphins I will be producing when I eat it is sufficient to keep my patience intact.
After 30 minutes or so you'll notice the fudge has thickened somewhat and is boiling lower in the pot. Fill a measuring cup with the coldest water you have and drop some of the hot fudge into it. If it forms a runny ball, you've more waiting ahead. Test again in a few minutes. When the test ball starts to be more firm, check it more frequently. Use fresh cold water every time.
The critical point is when you are able to detect the tiniest crispness to the edges of the test ball. Sometimes I test again, just to be sure, but when it's ready, get it off the heat and into the sink of cold water as quickly as possible. Don't wiggle it! Just drop the whole stick of butter in along with the vanilla and don't stir.
As soon as you can handle the pot (just a minute or so), sit down with it in your lap (use the towels to protect yourself) and carefully move the fudge into a pool in the corner of the tilted pot with the wooden paddle. Gently stir the butter and vanilla until blended and keep the fudge moving.
This is where you earn your stripes as a fudge-maker par excellence. Beat that fudge as if your life depended on it. When your hands and arms get so tired you don't think you can go on, then stir it and elongate it by lifting and drizzling it back into the pot. Watch carefully how the fudge looks as it piles back into the pot, since the moment for pouring is determined by the glossiness of the fudge. Your objective is to cool the fudge while stretching it (a lot like taffy-making), but not to pour it before it will hold its shape.
The time to ease the fudge onto the buttered plates has arrived when the fudge has lost its glossiness. Hurry, hurry! Too slow and your fudge may try to firm up in the pot. Of course, if it's still too glossy, the fudge will pour, but it will have a flat appearance and won't have as fabulous a texture. You'll know you've hit it right (and, trust me, even after all these years of making it, I still goof) when you can use your paddle to draw some artistic swirls into the finished product.
Before it hardens fully, take a very sharp knife and just lightly score the top into squares. (I make them small, since this is pretty potent stuff.) The fudge should be allowed to cool completely before you break it apart (use this time scraping and eating what's stuck to the paddle and pot). It should break easily along the score lines. I personally prefer leaving it unbroken until I serve it, since the plate of fudge is so visually appealing.
Killer fudge -- the recipe By Nancy Weaver